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January 15, 2020

Toolkit to help veterinary colleges deal with suicide

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To help support veterinary colleges in the aftermath of a student’s death by suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, AVMA, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges have released a new resource, “After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Colleges of Veterinary Medicine.”

The toolkit provides a best-practices approach to effectively managing the impact of suicide in academic communities, said Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, AAVMC CEO, in a Nov. 18, 2019, press release. The launch coincided with the 2019 Veterinary Wellbeing Summit (see story).

Illustration: 3 raised handsDeveloped by experts in veterinary medicine and suicide prevention as well as survivors of suicide loss in the veterinary community, this free toolkit includes the following:

  • Best practices for how school administrators and staff should respond in the immediate aftermath of a suicide.
  • Guidance on helping students, faculty, and staff cope in the short and long term.
  • Tips on working with the media and community partners such as the coroner’s office, local police departments, funeral directors, faith leaders, and mental health professionals.
  • Tools for deciding how to safely memorialize students.
  • Information on how to identify and support members of the community who may be vulnerable and reduce the risk of suicide contagion.

“This toolkit addresses many of the questions that schools have following a suicide death, while also giving them a framework through which to effectively respond to students’ questions and needs,” said AVMA President Dr. John Howe in the release. “Collaborating with AFSP provided the expertise and insight necessary in the development of these tools, and AAVMC’s reach within the colleges and schools gives us confidence that they will make a significant difference in the future of veterinary medicine.”

Christine Moutier, MD, AFSP chief medical officer, said in the release: “Because suicide loss survivors can develop elevated risk of suicide if not appropriately supported, postvention is a critical component of suicide prevention. The appropriate handling of the aftermath of a suicide often paves the way for effective prevention strategies to be developed and employed at the next phase after the grief period.”